ATM XI: Oblak; Arias, Giménez (Filipe 46’), Godín, Lucas; Saúl, Koke, Thomas (Correa 63’), Lemar; Griezmann, Costa (Rodri 69’)
CB XI: Letica, Poulain, Mechele, Denswil, Rits (Openda 76’), Vanaken, Vormer, Vlientinck (Lourenco 56’), Groeneveld, Wesley, Schrijvers (Nakaba 56’)
So far this season, Atlético Madrid have looked more productive in continental competition rather than domestic and wanted to avoid last season’s Qarabag debacle on Wednesday. Belgian champions Club Brugge have been considered the the worst team in Group A, which is probably fair considering the collective might of the other three clubs. Diego Simeone chose to put out a fairly strong first XI with a few changes — notably Santiago Arias, who had not played in a month.
However, Brugge were able to hang with Atlético for most of the first half, creating chances while remaining largely resolute at the back. Atleti would strike first though, when an unmarked Antoine Griezmann got on the end of a wonderful Thomas Lemar pass and calmly put Atlético into the lead on 28 minutes.
But the lead would not last long as Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld scored an absolute worldie from outside the box which any goalkeeper would do well to get to. Brugge had equalized on 39 minutes, and the ghosts of Qarabag began to swirl around Estadio Wanda Metropolitano.
The first half performance was stale against a side who by all reasonable analysis Atlético should have dominated. Thankfully, this realization was at halftime and not full time — in 20 minutes of second half action, Atleti registered one more shot than they had through the entirety of the first half.
Griezmann would double his tally on 67 minutes when he and Diego Costa played an excellent one-two, which resulted in the Frenchman latching onto a pass from Costa to make it 2-1. It was a crucial goal, and despite the poor first half, Atleti seemed to be kicking into gear.
Of course, all good things are followed by bad things — first, José Giménez was injured in the first half and replaced by Filipe Luís at halftime, and Costa had to be substituted immediately after he delivered the assist.
Still, the mattress makers would kill off the match in the 93rd minute, when Koke popped up from a Griezmann cutback to claim Atlético’s third. That goal — Koke’s third of the season already — sealed a very important, if uninspiring win in the Champions League.
Without doubt, the talismanic Griezmann was the man of the match, as he scored twice and was denied by his teammates of at least one, perhaps two assists. Though he has yet to catch fire in LaLiga, Griezmann has had good moments already this year, and his contribution Wednesday night was vital.
With Borussia Dortmund winning as well, Atleti and the Germans seem to be the class of the group, and those two face off on Oct. 24. It was not the greatest performance, but it was enough to get the win, and Real Betis are next up in LaLiga on Sunday.